If you’ve seen the workspace of a dedicated programmer, you might’ve noticed a vertical monitor there. While they do look rather odd at first glance (not to mention out-of-character for otherwise logical-minded folks), there are reasons for them being especially popular among programmers.
Here are 7 reasons why programmers use vertical monitors:
- Better utilize screen space
- Can increase productivity
- Reduce eye strain
- Ideal for testing portrait mode applications
- Require less physical space
- Easy to set up
- Can easily be used with a horizontal monitor
In this article, I’ll give you a detailed overview of vertical monitors, why programmers use them, what some drawbacks of using them might be, and list other popular uses of vertical monitors.
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When you think about programming, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? That’s right. Coding. Writing code forms the bulk of most programmers’ day-to-day responsibilities. Their secondary responsibilities will more than likely involve code they wrote — like error testing and bug fixing, for example. You get the idea.
Therefore, it should make sense that programmers would want to make writing code as easy as possible. That’s where vertical monitors come in.
If you’re familiar with coding or have seen written code, you might notice that (on the screen) it occupies a very small amount horizontally and extends downwards vertically.
Of course, there are slight variations on this based on the language used and the specifics of the situation. However, it’s more likely for code to extend downwards or vertically than sideways. In fact, code usually doesn’t extend sideways at all. (If you can show me an example of this, whoever’s behind it would be an extraordinary programmer, indeed!)
You can see how a vertical monitor would be able to show more code at a time compared to a horizontal monitor.
On a horizontal monitor, most of the available horizontal space is wasted as there’s usually never enough code on a single line to utilize it. You have a large amount of unused space behind and in front of the code editor.
Vertical space on a landscape monitor is somewhat limited. If the code being written is long enough (which it usually is), programmers have to continuously scroll up and down while coding. Kind of inconvenient, right?
Compare this to a vertical monitor: No space is wasted, much more of the written code can be seen at the time, and the code is often much easier to read. As in most other cases, people tend to read shorter lines more efficiently.
A vertical monitor saves programmers from mindless scrolling and makes things more convenient for them by utilizing the available screen space more effectively than landscape or horizontal monitors.
This point ties in with the previous one. Vertical monitors can arguably increase productivity. Now, you might be thinking that this increase in productivity is quite minor — negligible, even. But in practice, using a vertical monitor can make a significant difference in terms of how quickly a programmer can work.
As mentioned above, programmers benefit from having more of the code on their screen at one time. But it’s not just because they save time scrolling. (Although to be fair, that does make a considerable difference over time.)
Development can take place over several months, and savings of just a few minutes per day due to not having to scroll during coding can add up to several hours by the end of the project.
There is, however, another important aspect to consider.
Programming is complex, intricate, and challenging. It’s also a continuous process. A single error in the code anywhere can lead to major issues with the final product.
Knowing what came before and what comes after any particular line of code can be very helpful for writing correctly and efficiently. If the programmer faces the problem of having to scroll up to recall ideas and coordinate between different lines of code continuously, they’ll likely make a mistake somewhere in the process.
For example, functions are a fundamental part of programming. Functions can be over 50 lines long, and it would be ideal if the programmer can see the whole function without having to scroll up and down. Otherwise, they may run the risk of making an error somewhere and letting it slip by unnoticed.
Until now, we have assumed the programmer is only writing the code. Let’s also consider a scenario where our programmer is not the one writing the code but the one responsible for editing, proofreading, error-checking, or testing it.
In that scenario, the programmer lacks (at least in comparison to the writer) the fundamental ideas and concepts that the writer would have had in their mind when they were initially coding. Therefore, it becomes much more important for the editor to have the context of what the code was intended to do and what it does. Having more code on the screen at one time is somewhat more beneficial here.
You can see why being able to see the bigger picture while coding is of the utmost importance. Being able to see more of the code at once allows for a better understanding of the functionality of the code, and helps with an editor’s job (which requires greater attention to detail and nuance).
Vertical screens can significantly improve productivity, efficiency, and accuracy while programming, and even more so while error-checking, especially if the programmer responsible for error-checking is not the one who initially wrote the code.
As I noted earlier, vertical monitors do a great job at eliminating the space wasted to the left and right of the code. These monitors show only the necessary part, meaning the programmer doesn’t have to move their eyes from left to right using a vertical monitor as much as they would with a horizontal monitor.
It can be helpful to think about it like reading a book or a newspaper. If the lines of text are too long, the reader tends to lose interest and attention. It also requires more movement of the eyes. That’s why books and newspapers tend to have smaller lines: It keeps the reading process fluid, reduces the rate of eye strain, and improves reader retention.
Vertical monitors are therefore easier on the eyes — something that certainly comes in handy for people who have to stare at screens for extended periods.
Although portrait mode (i.e. vertical mode) isn’t the convention for PC apps and software, a majority of mobile applications are developed to be used in portrait mode since mobile users tend to stay in that mode most of the time (except for watching videos and playing games that emulate the feel of a PSP).
Since horizontal monitors display content in landscape mode, they don’t provide an authentic experience when testing applications built to run on portrait mode displays. While it’s possible to display these applications on a horizontal screen, the aspect ratio feels unnatural, and the programmer can’t run them on fullscreen without further compromising on the aspect ratio.
Vertical monitors, on the other hand, allow developers to experience these applications the way mobile users would. Web applications and web pages intended to be viewed on mobile, for example, can be tested for visual errors with a vertical monitor.
Further, a vertical monitor can help iron out errors that would have gone undetected in horizontal mode.
By giving the programmers a better idea of what the product looks like on a fullscreen vertical display, the error-testing and debugging process becomes much easier.
As a side note, there are some applications built for PCs and laptops that feature portrait mode, such as the game “Dwarf Fortress.” But those are rare, and you can probably imagine how disorienting it’d be for most PC users (who are used to a landscape display) to work with a vertical interface.
Vertical monitors require less physical space on your desk or workspace compared to horizontal monitors of the same size. The reason is simple: The monitor dimension that occupies more space on your desk is the horizontal one. (If gravity pulls us sideways instead of downwards, I imagine it’d be a different story — not to mention there’d be plenty of debate on what makes something “horizontal” as opposed to “vertical.”)
Horizontal monitors are wide. They can have horizontal lengths ranging from 22 to 40+ inches (55.9 to 101.6 cm) for PC monitors.
Vertical monitors are longer vertically but aren’t as wide as horizontal monitors, so they occupy less space on your desk. Therefore, you have more leeway for other paraphernalia like speakers, your PC, other components, or even another monitor. Basically, vertical monitors will let you utilize your desk space to the fullest.
Programmers are generally organized, efficient, and love to optimize their resources to the best of their ability. It makes sense, then, that they’d use a vertical monitor to optimize their work environment for maximum productivity. Considering that programmers prefer having multiple monitors, an additional horizontal monitor might not fit the space left on the desk, while a vertical monitor makes the cut.
These days, vertical monitors are extremely easy to get, set up, and use. The process is almost no different from setting up horizontal monitors. Most of the monitors being released in recent years feature the ability to display their content in both a landscape and portrait format. All it takes is clicking a few buttons in the Windows settings menu. If your monitor is VESA compatible, it likely supports this feature too, so you can try it out for yourself.
Other than that, all you need is a stand that can support a monitor held in a vertical position. Luckily, these are very common and easy to come by.
Take the Hemudu Single Monitor Stand Freestanding 27-43 Inch (available on Amazon.com), for example. If you’re using a curved monitor that’s 27 to 43 inches (69 to 109 cm) long, this is the perfect stand to support it. You can use it to adjust the monitor at an angle that’s most comfortable for you.
It’s possible to get a dedicated vertical monitor (i.e., monitors with a stand that supports vertical tilt) or use a regular horizontal monitor with a separate stand. Just make sure that it’s compatible with the portrait display format, and that you set it up vertically with the help of a vertical stand.
In terms of price, dedicated vertical monitors are only slightly more expensive than horizontal ones. Still, users always have the option of using a regular monitor instead and getting a stand that supports monitors in the vertical position for their purposes.
Since both display formats are interchangeable with the help of a stand, users can easily revert to landscape mode whenever they feel like it.
To find out how to change your display format from landscape to portrait on Windows 10 and 11, use this guide by Microsoft.
With all of the above being said, vertical monitors do have their disadvantages. For starters, their utility is rather limited when it comes to things outside of programming. (If you’ve poked around at any corporate office, you won’t see a lot of desks with vertical monitors.)
One of the most noticeable drawbacks of a vertical monitor is the fact that it’s not the industry standard. While a programmer is likely to benefit from using one in their work, the vertical monitor would provide a sub-optimal experience in most other situations.
Videos are a great example. As they’re usually recorded with a 16:9 aspect ratio, vertical monitors cannot play them in fullscreen. The video must be played on a small portion of the screen to maintain the aspect ratio, similar to how applications intended for portrait mode are displayed on a horizontal display.
There’s a simple fix to these problems, though. It might be best to pair a horizontal monitor with a vertical monitor. In fact, this trend has seen a dramatic rise in popularity over recent years.
Horizontal monitors are excellent for general use cases, whereas vertical monitors can outperform them in more niche areas (i.e., coding).
The fact that vertical monitors require less space also makes it easier for both monitors to be on the same desk.
Programmers can benefit from using both types of monitors. They can get the best of both worlds while negating the majority of the potential drawbacks associated with using a vertical monitor.
The monitor orientation notwithstanding, having multiple monitors is a big plus for anyone who wants to be more productive in their work. Both monitors can be connected to the same PC or server and can deliver information to the viewer simultaneously.
If the task at hand is too intricate, demands additional research, or requires the programmer to utilize a particular source of information, multiple monitors will streamline the process and allow the programmer to work efficiently without switching tabs.
Many programmers (and other types of workers who have to sit in front of a screen for extended periods) choose to get a vertical screen simply because it pairs so well with an existing horizontal screen and because multiple screens work very well in boosting productivity.
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